Higher education Green Paper: Concerns over TEF timetable and fee caps

Sector questions feasibility of time frame for the teaching excellence framework 

January 15, 2016
Source: iStock

Universities UK has expressed concerns about the timetable for the teaching excellence framework (TEF) and claimed that multiple fee caps would be “disproportionate, burdensome and counterproductive”.

In its written response to the government’s higher education Green Paper, the organisation said that achieving the desirable outcomes of the TEF (which it said include supporting institutional improvement of teaching and giving students useful information to inform choices) represented “a complex challenge” and added that it was “not convinced that the timetable proposed for the second iteration of the TEF is feasible”.

The government plans to publish its first TEF assessment this year, while a fee cap would be linked to inflation from 2017-18.

Universities UK said that the second iteration should focus on “gathering evidence from the sector on implementing teaching excellence and assessing student outcomes” and “more consideration” should be given to how this information can be “presented to students in a meaningful way without adding to information overload”.

It added that “any system that introduces multiple fee caps across multiple levels based on partial modes of teaching excellence and assessment would be disproportionate, burdensome and counterproductive”.

The Green Paper proposed to allow English universities to increase their tuition fees in line with inflation from 2017-18, with institutions being invited to apply for subsequent awards that pave the way for variable fees.

The National Union of Students also highlighted concerns regarding the timetable of the TEF in its response, stating that the government is “rushing far too quickly” and “not giving any time for the sector to properly develop in response to their major changes”.

It added that it was concerned that the TEF’s link to tuition fees and the use of graduate employment outcomes would create “distortion and misrepresentation of quality”.

Dave Phoenix, chairman of university group Million+, suggested that the government should defer the introduction of a multi-level TEF in 2018 “until further work has been undertaken to determine the best way to promote teaching excellence”.

“Linking fee increases with a teaching excellence framework (TEF), based on metrics that are proxies for teaching quality, is unlikely to provide students or employers with an accurate picture of the rich and varied teaching and learning environments that universities offer,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Council for the Defence of British Universities urged the government to “revisit both the premises and the evidence of its Green Paper proposals”.

“Any new proposals should be evidence-based and arrived at after an appropriate period of consultation with experts, including those who conduct teaching and research in our universities,” it said.


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